Dig the long ball? Then you’ll want to catch this Sunday’s AFC West tilt between the host Oakland Raiders and visiting Los Angeles Chargers.
Legendary former Raiders boss Al Davis would love seeing this one being as he held the long ball near to his heart.
Here’s the skinny from the Associated Press: The Raiders defense ranks dead last in the NFL with a 130.2 rating on passes 21-plus yards in the air. The Chargers are slightly better with a 128.5 clip.
So, you’ve got the 32nd and 31st ranked teams against the deep ball trying to stymie and defend against quarterbacks Philip Rivers and (a returning) Derek Carr who love nothing more than to sling it all over the yard, especially way down the field.
Both Raiders and Chargers defensive backs best make sure they stretch properly in pregame because there’s a high likelihood of running. Plenty of running. The dubious ratings above highlight another area where the California-based teams are close in relation — interceptions. More specifically, the lack of them.
Oakland is one of three teams without a single INT five weeks into the season (Chicago and Miami are the other two). Los Angeles, on the other hand, has a whopping total of two.
“It starts in practice and preparation,” Raiders safety Karl Joseph said. “We’ve clearly got to prepare better and practice better for (turnovers) to happen. Go after the ball, man. We’ve got to go after the ball when it’s in the air.”
There’s an old football mantra that pass rush and coverage coincide to create takeaways. Leave it to the Chargers to buck that trend.
Los Angeles is tied for third in the league with a total of 17 sacks, but only has two picks to show for it. The team has forced four fumbles but only recovered two.
Oakland? The team is tied for 24th with 10 sacks, zero interceptions and four fumble recoveries.
“We’ve got to keep working,” Raiders cornerback TJ Carrie said. “Last year we were excellent in turnovers and going into Week 6 we haven’t had an interception. The lack of turnovers has really hurt us. We’re used to winning those turnover battles and capitalizing, giving our offense a couple of extra opportunities to go down and play.”
Two teams, struggling to defend the deep pass, with only four total takeaways. This could be a shootout of epic proportions.
“The bottom line is, football games in the NFL typically come down to who makes plays when you’re at those key moments, and teams that make those plays win,” said Raiders Head Coach Jack Del Rio.
Will it be his merry band of marauders finally stepping up and making those plays?